They haven’t had a chance to post it on the website yet, but my editor gave me the OK to post it here. It’s about the Friendly Lounge, which was just named by Esquire as the best bar in America. To learn more about the Friendly, click here.
In their June edition, Esquire Magazine listed the Best Bars in America. The only one representing Philly was a quiet little neighborhood bar on the corner of 8th and Washington called the Friendly Lounge. What was it about a quiet corner bar that earned it such praise? Sensing an opportunity to write off beer as a business expense, I decided to find out.
It was midnight on a quiet Monday, and the bar had two patrons. I met one of the twins who own the place, Marco. He was ebullient and excitable, at one point pulling out his guitar to sing along with a song on the jukebox, then putting it away after strumming only a handful of notes. “We already knew it was the best bar,” said Marco proudly. “It was at one time famous for its ribs. Legend has it that Frank Sinatra had the ribs delivered to a show in Atlantic City once.” He continued. “My father, who opened the place in the 50s, was John DiTullio, but was known as Skinny. In fact, listen to this.”
Marco ran to the jukebox. Louis Prima’s famous version of “Just a Gigolo” began to play. “Listen to the part where he goes ‘Newt da Newt, Dolly Dolly, Skinny Skinny.’ He’s paying tribute to my father. He and Louis were friends. My father knew Joe DiMaggio, Martha Rae. Lenny Bruce used to come here regularly, and his wife used to babysit us.” Not that John was the only one in the family who could name drop. Marco’s mother, Hilda, was a well known circus performer who appeared in a 1940 film with Fred Astaire. The celebrity surrounding the Friendly Lounge then went to the level of surreal when I spoke with Marco’s wife, an extremely pleasant lady named Ruth. “I’m a descendant of Pocohantes,” she said sweetly and honestly.
I spoke with Marco’s twin brother Dominick the next day. He was a bit more subdued than Marco, and at least mildly surprised by the Esquire honor. “I suppose if you hang around long enough, you’ll probably get something right.” He smiled and wiped the counter. “Everybody’s got their own idea of what’s a great bar.” One with a picture of a forever young Marilyn Monroe beside the antique cash register, one filled with the ghosts of legends, one that’s been in the same family for over 50 years? That fits my idea of a great bar.
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